Author Topic: Charles Ives  (Read 51324 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 39674
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, Frescobaldi, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Chopin, Haydn, Henning
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #480 on: March 13, 2017, 04:25:59 AM »
I found -- and still very much find -- that the music of Ives does not lend itself to recording at all. Not, at least, when the initial appreciation hasn't taken place.
It's so dependent on space and subtle perception of musics intertwining, that I find most of this gets lost via a stereo. Perhaps, presumably high definition surround sound would do Ives really well, but lacking that, try to seek out any concert experience with Ives on the program that you can, if you want to have an easier time really digging his work.

I can affirm this, from the BSO's performance of the Fourth Symphony a few seasons back; an entirely different order of experience!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Mr. Minnow

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Location: UK
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #481 on: March 13, 2017, 07:22:39 AM »
Thanks for these responses! I had assumed that as Ives' 1st symphony is written in a largely late-Romantic idiom, the recurrence of themes in the finale would be done in a fairly traditional way. Karl has explained in the thread in the introductions section of the forum that that's not the case, and that it's more a case of the themes being mashed up together in, as he put it, "glorious chaos". That would certainly make them a heck of a lot harder to spot!

I hadn't considered that a stereo recording could well struggle to accurately capture various themes/strands of music intertwining without losing a lot of the detail. Hyperion's sound on this CD sounds very good, as their releases usually are, but there must be limits to how much subtle detail can be captured and accurately reproduced.

The analysis of The Unanswered Question was very intriguing. Some of the more technical bits are beyond my limited knowledge of music theory, but I get the basic point regarding the lack of synthesis in Ives' music. I've just ordered a cheap second hand copy of a CD conducted by Tilson Thomas which includes the original and revised versions. Should be interesting! 


Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 38305
  • Charles Ives (1874 - 1954)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    The sound of rag-time dances in a New England town square
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #482 on: March 13, 2017, 10:53:46 AM »
Thanks for these responses! I had assumed that as Ives' 1st symphony is written in a largely late-Romantic idiom, the recurrence of themes in the finale would be done in a fairly traditional way. Karl has explained in the thread in the introductions section of the forum that that's not the case, and that it's more a case of the themes being mashed up together in, as he put it, "glorious chaos". That would certainly make them a heck of a lot harder to spot!

I hadn't considered that a stereo recording could well struggle to accurately capture various themes/strands of music intertwining without losing a lot of the detail. Hyperion's sound on this CD sounds very good, as their releases usually are, but there must be limits to how much subtle detail can be captured and accurately reproduced.

The analysis of The Unanswered Question was very intriguing. Some of the more technical bits are beyond my limited knowledge of music theory, but I get the basic point regarding the lack of synthesis in Ives' music. I've just ordered a cheap second hand copy of a CD conducted by Tilson Thomas which includes the original and revised versions. Should be interesting!

Glad you enjoyed that analysis of The Unanswered Question. I felt it was expertly done. A big thumbs up for that MTT recording. This particular recording also contains the Holidays Symphony and Central Park in the Dark which are both bonafide masterpieces IMHO. A great choice.
"There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.” - Schoenberg on Ives

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

  • Full Member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 601
  • Back. Hello!
    • Surprised by Beauty
  • Currently Listening to:
    anything from Monteverdi to Widmann and well beyond in either direction and everything in the middle!
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #483 on: March 13, 2017, 12:38:01 PM »

I hadn't considered that a stereo recording could well struggle to accurately capture various themes/strands of music intertwining without losing a lot of the detail. Hyperion's sound on this CD sounds very good, as their releases usually are, but there must be limits to how much subtle detail can be captured and accurately reproduced.


It's not even about good sound or not. It simply is no comparison, I find. Just take the unanswered question. The sound of "from behind and far away" simply doesn't happen on a stereo. Nor does the multiplicity of sounds going in seemingly all kinds of directions. Your ears can focus very differently in concert, also because they work in connection with your eyes. (You hear things you see that you wouldn't otherwise, for example [different composer, but Bruckner's double bass pizzicati in the 5th are an example; if they were recorded as they are played in concert, you'd never hear them.) And with Ives there's tons of that going on. I feel that to do Ives justice on recording, apart from using surround sound, one would almost have to make a radio-collage a la Glenn Gould out of it. In any case, you'd be surprised what a difference it makes in this composer (ditto Stockhausen, for many things; certainly Maurizio Kagel who doesn't really make sense on CD but will, in concert). Good sound, bad sound, live, CD, LP: In Beethoven it's more or less the same. Not really, but for all practical purposes, on most occasions, for most people. With Ives, I've learned the long, hard, eventually very sweet way how much of a game-changer it really is.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 38305
  • Charles Ives (1874 - 1954)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    The sound of rag-time dances in a New England town square
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #484 on: March 13, 2017, 01:05:43 PM »
While it’s true, recording engineers can’t capture all Ives’ music even in surround sound, this, however, doesn't take away from the experience of what a great pair of headphones and superb sounding recording can offer the listener. Hearing Ives’ music live has long been a dream of mine, but, unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to hear the music in concert, so I’m stuck with my limited means of listening to it.
"There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.” - Schoenberg on Ives

Offline Leo K.

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1446
  • Author of 'False Barnyard'
    • Conceptual Music
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Bach, Handel, Beethoven
Charles Ives
« Reply #485 on: March 15, 2017, 07:15:57 AM »
I've never heard Ives in concert and I'm not in a city that plays him. I'd have to live in New York probably. That said, I live by my recorded collection and don't miss concerts. For example, Mahler's 7 sounds better on recordings than live in concert. Don't know why!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Offline PerfectWagnerite

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2956
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #486 on: March 15, 2017, 07:27:45 AM »
I've never heard Ives in concert and I'm not in a city that plays him. I'd have to live in New York probably. That said, I live by my recorded collection and don't miss concerts. For example, Mahler's 7 sounds better on recordings than live in concert. Don't know why!

Regarding Mahler's 7th, the one time I heard it live the mandolin and guitar players were sitting behind the last stand of the first violin - not a really prominent place nor one sonically preferred I would think. That might have something to do with it.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 38305
  • Charles Ives (1874 - 1954)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    The sound of rag-time dances in a New England town square
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #487 on: March 15, 2017, 07:28:18 AM »
I've never heard Ives in concert and I'm not in a city that plays him. I'd have to live in New York probably. That said, I live by my recorded collection and don't miss concerts. For example, Mahler's 7 sounds better on recordings than live in concert. Don't know why!

Good to see you’re still kicking around, Leo. :) Yes, it’s certainly a luxury to have so many great recordings at our disposal.
"There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.” - Schoenberg on Ives

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 38305
  • Charles Ives (1874 - 1954)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    The sound of rag-time dances in a New England town square
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #488 on: March 18, 2017, 08:33:19 PM »
Orchestral Set No. 2



Charles Ives did not intend for his Orchestral Set No. 2 to be a follow-up to the famous first set, Three Places in New England. His notes indicate that by 1911 he'd completed the first two movements, and that the third was written in the fall of 1915. The finished grouping of these three movements wasn't assembled until 1919, whereas Three Places was put together around 1914. Ives' Orchestral Set No. 2 premiered under Morton Gould in Chicago in 1967.

The Orchestral Set No. 2 is scored for a very large orchestra and chorus, rivaling the scale of the Fourth Symphony. The first movement, entitled "An Elegy to Our Forefathers," was originally conceived as an "Overture to Stephen Foster" and undertaken around 1909. It includes quotations from such familiar Foster fare as "Old Black Joe" and "Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground," but also snatches of African American spirituals such as "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." Bathed in dark hues of thick, mysterious orchestral color, this movement is the most touching of Ives' forays into African American song. Conductor Leopold Stokowski attempted to point up this element of the work by asking composer Hershy Kay to add a unison chorus to this movement in 1970. While the added choral part doesn't sound out of place in this context, Ives never intended it, and this addition has to be considered spurious.

The second movement, "The Rockstrewn Hills Join in the People's Outdoor Meeting" is based on the Four Ragtime Dances of 1902; some of the same material also appears in the fourth movement of the First Piano Sonata. This piece is a full throttle, no-holds-barred send-up of ragtime rhythm; it contains some of Ives' most trenchantly dissonant writing for the strings and brass in the center section. Bells ring in the climax, consisting of a wonderfully sour rendering of "Bringing in the Sheaves" before the music quiets back down. Despite the outdoor setting indicated by the title, this is urban music -- big and ugly.

The final piece, "From Hanover Square North, at the End of a Tragic Day, the Voice of the People Again Arose" memorializes an event that occurred on a train platform in New York City on Friday, May 7, 1915. Ives records in his Memos how the atmosphere on that day was thick with apprehension at the news that a German Submarine had torpedoed the Lusitania, meaning war was imminent. As Ives waited along with a crowd at the Third Avenue "El," "In the Sweet Bye and Bye" broke out among some of the workers, and soon the whole crowd picked it up. As the train arrived, the magic remained; no one spoke, and some were still singing the tune while boarding. In Ives' score, he utilizes the large orchestral forces at his disposal and unison chorus to perfectly capture the tension and claustrophobia of this scene.

[Article taken from All Music Guide]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Following on the heels of the Ives of March celebrations that aren’t happening on GMG (where are you, Greg?), I thought I’d post this write-up about one of my favorite Ives works: Orchestral Set No. 2. For me, the whole work feels like I’ve just entered a drug-induced dreamworld full of flickering lights and shadow lurkers. It would take someone an entire book to analyze this work, so I possibly couldn’t begin to pick apart all of the strands of music that exist in it. My favorite performance comes from Tilson Thomas conducting the Concertgebouw. Sinclair also has an excellent recording with the Malmo SO on Naxos.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2017, 08:35:30 PM by Mirror Image »
"There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.” - Schoenberg on Ives

Offline Thatfabulousalien

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2383
  • Variations of Armature Pianist and Arm Chair Paris
  • Currently Listening to:
    Currently conducting the largest symphony in the galaxy and we don't even have enough money to get scores because our accountant has been slacking off and putting us in a little bit of debt
Re: Charles Ives
« Reply #489 on: March 23, 2017, 05:47:00 PM »
Oh Ives <3



The songs in particular give me a particular warm, hearty feeling; so do Gershwin's songs, Mahler's Lieder and also some of Shubert's Lieder.

Ives seems to tap into an aesthetic and weird cross between spiritual, sentimental and cultural spots that I haven't seen elsewhere:
It's the songs of workers, churches, fields, factories, childhood, nostalgia, sailors, circus clowns, historical events etc, that seem very unified as something much bigger. There seems to be a general theme about finding happiness in a very weird, monotonous and very sinister world.

His songs have a very uplifting quality, they're amazing. So, obviously this is one of the many things that make him one of my favorite early 20th century composers.


In reality though, there are so many innovative composers throughout both halves of the XX Century that I won't try to create a hierarchy there but Ives done some crazy stuff for the first time! (like many others in other areas)  :D :D :D :D
"Where we're from, the birds sing a pretty song and there's always music in the air"

Buying Music From Amazon?
Please consider using these links. A small percentage of every sale using these links is passed on to GMG and helps keep this forum online.
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK